Rachel Harrison on how CROs can work remotely and still remain impactful Experiment Nation

Rachel Harrison on how CROs can work remotely and still remain impactful

Rommil from Experiment Nation: Hi Rachel! Happy to chat with you today. Let’s start with you sharing a bit about yourself with our readers.

Rachel Harrison: Hi, my name’s Rachel Harrison and I am the UX & CRO Manager at connective3, a Leeds (UK) based digital marketing agency.

Very nice. And how did you get to where you are today?

I went to university 9 years ago and did an IT course, at the time I wasn’t really sure where it would take me – but I thought that anything related to computers would be a pretty good bet.  

I remember that during my UX module, I was absolutely fascinated that such market-leading brands, could have such inaccessible and buggy websites. 

From then on, I found passion in helping to improve the quality of websites and therefore a user’s experience on them. Since then, I have worked in both an agency and in-house role, where I have gained experience and continually developed.   

Haha – you’re so right. You would think that market leaders would have the best websites. As someone from the UK, what is the Experimentation community like there?

I certainly feel as though it is rapidly growing at the moment, or at least I am being more exposed to it. I can’t wait to connect with more people who are as passionate about experimentation as I am and continue to share resources and knowledge with one another.

Speaking of connecting. You’ve had quite a busy year – speaking at events and such. Could you tell us about some of the topics you spoke about and which event stood out for you the most?

At the end of last year, I had the opportunity to speak at two events. Having never done much public speaking in the past I was both nervous and excited to present in front of people.  

I get it. I’m not that comfortable with public speaking either. Maybe one day I’ll get better at that. LOL Please, go on.

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In light of the pandemic and the ever-increasing need for individuals to have heightened technology skills, I decided to focus on the importance of user research. At the time I was volunteering as a buddy, to help individuals with low technology skills to do tasks on the internet such as ordering food shops and communicating with friends and family, throughout the pandemic.

It struck me that it was more important than ever for companies to be doing user research, as likely they were experiencing a higher volume of users with decreased experience and knowledge of technology.

Very nice. 100% agree.

As someone who has worked with many clients, what is the most common battle you’ve faced, and do you have any tips for our readers on how to tackle it?

I think in my experience the biggest challenge that I have faced has been getting buy-in from clients. Numerous times I have demonstrated the value of experimentation to clients, and then they have launched a brand new website without any consideration of the CRO activity that we have done. 

In an ideal world, I think there needs to be more done to educate clients about the process of experimentation and how this should feed into their new website, rather than them starting from scratch again.

Many CROs have shifted to working from home over the last couple of years. Do you have any tips for how to remain impactful despite working remotely?

I know myself and many other individuals have found working from home incredibly challenging at times. I still find that some days I am not as motivated and productive as I would like to be, but I’ve found the following to help me:

  • Taking the time out to go for a lunchtime walk. Some weeks I can do this every day, but for others, it can be all too tempting to continue working instead. Working in a creative role I find that going on my regular 40-minute walk through the village, and listening to an audiobook helps me have more productive afternoons.
  • Still having regular catch-ups with other members of the team. Despite sometimes feeling as though you can be a pest ringing people on teams, I find that I work a lot more efficiently if I talk and bounce ideas off other members of the team.
  • More increasingly I also put more effort into talking to the client teams, as I feel that this needs to be more of a conscious effort when you aren’t in the same office as one another.
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As someone who also is working remotely, I feel this. These are great tips.

As someone who dives deep into customer behaviour, what are your thoughts about “best practices”? Some CROs love them, and some hate them. Would love your take.

Yes, best practices do exist. But are they going to work for every single website? No. 

I often think that best practices are a good starting point or a good way to start opening up the idea of experimentation to clients. But often, you need to conduct your own user research and use this to inform your own testing roadmap to develop a successful strategy and website.

“I often think that best practices are a good starting point or a good way to start opening up the idea of experimentation to clients. But often, you need to conduct your own user research and use this to inform your own testing roadmap to develop a successful strategy and website.” – Rachel Harrison

Changing gears a bit. How was Thailand? I’ve read that you’ve recently visited for a great cause.

I have recently come back from volunteering in Chiang Mai –  Thailand, which was an all-expenses-paid trip by connective3. Each year all employees are given the opportunity to apply for a volunteering scheme that they are passionate about, and then the company will send one individual on their selected trip.

I was beyond lucky to be picked in 2021, and due to the pandemic, I had a year to wait until it was finally viable to do my trip to Thailand. Ever since I was younger I have always absolutely loved Elephants, so when I saw the opportunity to go to Thailand to help reintroduce elephants into the wild it was an absolute no-brainer. Not only did I get to contribute to an amazing elephant project, I also got to live in a completely different environment in one of the karen villages, where we had the opportunity to teach English and also learn their local language, Pakinyaw. 

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I am so grateful to have been given this opportunity, as it is something I never would have ‘got round’ to doing if it wasn’t for connective3. I’m super excited to continue exploring the world and doing more volunteering in the future.

Rachel with 2 elephants in the background.

Let’s change gears. It’s time for the Lightning Round! Describe yourself in 5 words or less.

Passionate. Determined. User-focused.

Frequentist or Bayesian?

Bayesian.

If you couldn’t work in Experimentation, what would you be doing today?

If I was to have taken another career path it probably would have been in education. As I was younger I was surrounded by a lot of people who took the route of being a teacher, so this is something I would have likely explored.

What do you have going on that you feel our audience should know about?

In my spare time I have been trying to gain as many CXL mini-degree qualifications as I can, to enhance my current skillset and knowledge. I have also recently started offering website support to some of the people I was introduced to in Thailand, which is really rewarding. 

Outside of work and now that the travel restrictions have eased, I am trying to get my 30 countries before I turn 30 years old challenge, back on.

Very nice! Who should we interview next?

Emma Travis. 

She used to head up the CRO team at Epiphany / Jaywing, and I learnt so much from her. Now within her role at Speero, I think she would have even more great insights to share with everybody!

Sounds good – We’ll reach out. Thanks for taking the time to chat today!

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